The Conservatives’ decision to roll out Universal Credit has been met with intense criticism. Recent events only confirm many people’s worries about whether Universal Credit will offer them the support they need. For example, the rollout meant that a man in Litherland, Merseyside had to survive eating only a pack of biscuits every day. Also, as reported by Left Food Forward, people are being refused prescriptions and dental care because of Universal Credit.
Following the various criticisms, Theresa May could end up doing something about it. She appears set to make a massive U-turn, by reducing how long people need to wait to receive their first payment.
Michael Goodwin from Litherland went nearly six weeks without support while he was looking for work. He told The Liverpool Echo:
I was in tears to an advisor over the phone, who sounded like she had no heart.
I was living on 50p a day, just eating a packet of biscuits. It’s pretty rough. I had blackouts some days as I didn’t have energy.
I lived a month basically off handouts from family and friends. Otherwise I’d have been looking through bins.
Goodwin was out of work after his contract at a supermarket expired. But when he needed assistance the most, he couldn’t get it. And he is not alone in experiencing a long wait for payment.
Confused GPs and dentists
There are many other practical issues with Universal Credit. The fact that this new benefit has wrapped six benefits into one is problematic. As Josiah Mortimer of Left Foot Forward explains:
Under the current welfare regime, those on certain benefits – such as Jobseekers’ Allowance – receive free NHS prescriptions and dental treatment, Healthy Start vouchers and other government-funded support.
But the Conservatives’ Universal Credit scheme wraps several benefits into one. While the principle has broad cross-party support, dental practices and GPs are now unsure who is eligible to receive free treatment.
This confusion means that many people, who are already struggling financially, have the additional frustration of being without medical and dental care.
Some backbenchers within the Conservative Party have taken issue with Universal Credit. Especially in terms of waiting times. MP Johnny Mercer says he is “confident” that May will make a policy change. The government has already decided to scrap the Universal Credit helpline charges. Mercer believes his party is “modern” and “compassionate”.
May is infamous for her U-turns. Many of them have caused vexation and hardship. Now, she must decide whether to deliver the necessary changes to Universal Credit, and make a policy U-turn that can benefit the most vulnerable people in society.
– Find out more about the Citizen’s Advice campaign on Universal Credit here.
– Join us, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.
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